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No set lunch period leaves kids suffering at Greater Victoria school: parent

Vanessa Taylor says her children can’t cope with a period split between lunch and instructional time
The Sooke School District 62 office in Langford. (Justin Samanski-Langille/News Staff)

One parent is fearful that her kids may be left behind if they’re made to eat lunch during class time.

Vanessa Taylor’s two children, Elise, 6 and Lysander, 9, go to David Cameron Elementary, where the school schedule was changed a couple of years ago, with no set lunchtime during the school day. Instead, students eat during light instructional time. During that period teachers teach skills “related to core competencies, things like social and personal responsibility, maybe doing a read-aloud to the class to help calm them,” according to Scott Stinson, superintendent with SD62.

“There’s no instruction in the sense of a math lesson or something like that. It is things that teachers would always do during the normal course of the day. It just happens to suit really well to provide that calm environment for students to be able to eat their lunch.”

But Taylor’s children, who are on the autism spectrum and need additional support to make it through the day, aren’t able to cope and often miss what the teacher is saying or in some instances don’t eat lunch at all.

Taylor said she tried unsuccessfully to appeal the lunch schedule. Students get an hour of unsupervised break time spent playing outside, and Taylor worries her kids could be made to stay behind and eat, resulting in them being ostracized.

“I don’t see any other solutions to problems so that’s the only real other solution is to continue to have my children struggle. It’s not just a struggle with eating and learning, it’s about regulating throughout the rest of the day.”

Stinson said the district hasn’t had complaints from other parents about this practice, and that the instruction given during the light instructional time is similar to what a teacher would do for students returning from recess.

“As far as students with diverse needs to go, we will always look at their individual needs, through their (individual education plan) and differentiate for them and provide whatever accommodations may be necessary. But this circumstance actually creates a much calmer environment for our students to transition back into.”

He added that the school publishes its calendar with how instructional hours are split up and that the district makes sure it meets obligations under the School Act, as well as meeting the needs of each of the school communities.

Other schools also have adopted the practice and the plan is for the same schedule to be adopted at Pexsisen Elementary School.

Taylor, whose kids are set to enrol in Pexissen when it opens in September, said she’s considered pulling her kids out if they can’t get the support she says they need. She said she’s looked at options like private teachers, but with changes to the autism funding she worries that might not be affordable for much longer.

“I would say my family, having two children with autism, 100 per cent has been failed through the brick and mortar school – with getting them curriculum support just to maintain.”

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